A federal judge has officially ordered Jackie — the primary source in Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s Rolling Stone later-retracted November 2014 article — to produce documents relating to Assoc. Dean of Students Nicole Eramo’s pending defamation lawsuit.
Eramo filed a lawsuit against Rolling Stone May 12, after the magazine retracted the article, which detailed an alleged violent gang rape and depicted the University’s involvement in the case after Jackie reported it to the Office of the Dean of Students.
After multiple unsuccessful attempts to obtain Jackie’s communications related to her alleged sexual assault, Eramo filed a motion Nov. 13 asking the court to compel Jackie to cooperate.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Glen E. Conrad officially granted the motion in part Monday, ruling for Jackie to turn over all documents relating to her communications between herself, Erdely, Rolling Stone and Eramo, as well as her communications with the University. He further specified all communications to be marked as confidential and treated as such.
Jackie’s lawyers argued the motion to compel should be denied on grounds of the requests being “irrelevant and burdensome,” the scope of discovery speaking to the “victim’s sexual predisposition,” and the privileged nature of Jackie’s communications with Eramo and the University, according to the Conrad’s memorandum opinion.
In his writings, Conrad disagreed with the aforementioned reasons, stating Jackie’s communications were very much relevant to Eramo’s defamation suit and Eramo was entitled to corroborate her communications and Rolling Stone’s with those of Jackie’s.
Law Prof. Robert Turner said he strongly agrees with Conrad’s decision and that Jackie’s allegations harmed the reputation of the University, the Phi Psi fraternity and its members and Eramo.
“To deny her victims the information necessary to present their cases to seek satisfaction in the courts would be a tragic injustice,” he said in an email statement. “I think ‘Jackie’ owes an apology to U.Va., its alumni and students, Dean Eramo and the fraternity.”
Conrad also said in his opinion that the federal rule protecting alleged victims of sexual assault from turning over evidence is inapplicable in “defamation action involving statements concerning sexual misconduct,” especially if the evidence speaks to the veracity of the alleged offense.
“If her case was made in good faith she will have an opportunity to present a defense and the documents sought will presumably support her case,” Turner said. “If the requested communications reveal that she fabricated false charges, she should be held accountable for her wrongdoing.”
According to Conrad’s writings, Jackie is also compelled to turn over communications between “Haven Monahan” and fourth-year Engineering student Ryan Duffin, as well as communications between Monahan and other individuals whose names had already been previously provided to Rolling Stone.
Duffin was a friend of Jackie’s at the time of the alleged assault.
According to court documents, Eramo’s lawyers have said Jackie’s account was fabricated and that Haven Monahan was a fictitious moniker used to in an attempt to “catfish” Duffin, whom Jackie was romantically interested in during her first year at the University.
However, Conrad limited the communications to be turned over to those not containing details of Jackie’s assault and which were initiated by Jackie on or before Dec. 5, 2014, the date Rolling Stone issued a statement refuting the veracity of its story.
Duffin said he thought the decision made sense, even though Jackie and her lawyers have been fighting the motion to protect her privacy.
“This really might be… the only opportunity left to definitely prove what did and did not happen, depending on what’s in [the documents],” Duffin said. “I’m curious to see what kind of insights it offers.”
Duffin was subpoenaed Nov. 24 to turn over documents relating to his communications. He said he believes the communications Jackie is compelled to turn over will corroborate those he was required to submit under the subpoena.
“At this point, I’m expecting I will probably get a subpoena to offer some sort of testimony when they actually run the trial,” he said.
Attorneys for Jackie, Eramo and Rolling Stone could not be reached for comment.